"Disaster simulation drills are widely used throughout the world and are considered a fundamental tool to evaluate and improve local disaster response," says lead author Gary B. Green, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins. "Despite this, however, no generally accepted methodology had existed to evaluate the medical response to a disaster. We created a set of tools that are flexible enough to be practical for disaster planners worldwide."
The methods, published in the May issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, break evaluation of drills into four parts: command and control (including the time from initial notification of a disaster until the paramedics arrive on scene); out-of-hospital care; in-hospital care; and system integration, including public safety response and interagency communications. They are designed to be especially helpful for governmental organizations and medics in developing countries, which are disproportionally affected by disasters.
"They really have a chronic, ongoing disaster every day, and are often so caught up in trying to survive and care for patients that they don't have time to focus on drills," Green says. "As a result, many physicians have no specific training in disasters. Or, they may have a plan on paper but don't know how to use it."
In the past decade, an estimated 2 billion people worldwide have been affected by disasters, with natural disasters alone causing 666,000 deaths, Green says. The frequency of disasters is increasing, he says, with approximately one disaster a week somewhere in the world requiring major relief activities. Direct losses attributed to natural disasters have risen to more than $100 billion per year.